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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of “dire consequences” should the United States decide to launch a strike on Syria, according to regional media reports.
In his first public comments since the Obama administration hinted it would take action in Syria, Khamenei warned that the United States would be “severely harmed by pursuing warmongering policies against the Muslim country,” according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
“The U.S. threats and possible intervention in Syria is a disaster for the region and if such an act is done, certainly, the Americans will sustain damage like when they interfered in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Khamenei was quoted as saying in a Wednesday meeting with Iran’s newly installed cabinet.
“Starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences,” Khamenei said.
Iranian officials have significantly ramped up their rhetoric against the United States in recent days following reports that the Obama administration is considering military options in Syria.
Iran has acted as embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chief regional defender, providing military and diplomatic coverage to the regime as it battles rebel forces.
Iran says that it will send a parliamentary delegation to Syria on Saturday to study “developments” in the country, Fars reported.
Khamenei’s comments are a signal that Tehran could launch a proxy war against America should it enter Syria.
As tensions mount in the region, Iran has found itself pitted against al Qaeda terrorists who are backing the rebel fighters.
Tehran warned its Arab neighbors, including Turkey, of getting involved in the Syrian conflict.
Speaking directly to Tehran’s “Turkish friends,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Araqchi said Arab action against Syria would only benefit Israel.
“Be careful about what is going on in Syria as any attack against that country will serve the interests of the Zionist regime,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by Fars. “The entire region should keep vigilant and don’t allow further spread of the crisis by indigested measures.”
Israel has become a central target for Iran as it pressures the West against military action in Syria.
A top Iranian lawmaker on Tuesday said that Israel would be the “first victim” of any U.S.-led attack on Syria.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem also blamed Israel for regional instability.
“The war effort led by the United States and their allies will serve the interests of Israel and secondly the Al-Nusra Front,” al-Mualem said in Damascus late Tuesday, following reports that the United States is laying the groundwork for military action that could take place as soon as Thursday.
Al-Mualem added that “any strike would serve the interests of al Qaeda-linked rebel groups,” according to Fars.
The United Nations’ Arab League has taken a cautious approach to the situation as both Iranian and Syrian officials step up their war rhetoric.
The Arab League’s Envoy for Syria would not admit on Wednesday that chemical weapons had been used, referring only to “some form of substance” during a press conference with reporters.
Arab League spokesman Lakhdar Brahimi urged the United States to hold off on a military strike.
“I think I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy,” Brahimi said. “What they will decide I don’t know, but certainly international law is very clear, the Security Council has to be brought in.”
U.N. inspectors must determine exactly what happened before military action takes place, Brahimi said.
“They have come back with a lot of samples; they talked also to doctors and witnesses,” he said. “They are in another area just now, as we speak, and we are waiting to see what they are going to tell us.”